Make a Mark
Off The Wall, December 04, 2009

When I record a reminder on my notepad or write the name of a column in my daily planner, for some reason or another I always grab a pencil. I don’t think it’s a tool that’s used as much as in former years, but when I picked it up recently, and wrote down something I hoped to remember, two things came to mind. First, I could see I was leaving a grayish-colored mark on the paper. But more so, since we are now approaching the four Sundays before Christmas known as Advent, leaving a mark in form of charity came to mind.

It won’t be long until we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the founder of the Church we cherish so dearly. Since many people do seasonal things, it would seem to me, as least in my opinion, that we should not only become more prayerful, spending time in meditation, but also touching others in ways to make a mark with Christ’s love.

Now, if one is “penciling” some notes here, with the beginning of Advent, the “walk” through the liturgical Church year begins once again. From www.catholic.org in an article written by Deacon Keith Fournier, we read, “The cycle is a constant reminder to us that every end is a beginning. In and through our liturgical seasons we mark our journey with great events that constitute the Christian Mystery. As Christians, we know that all time is a gift, given by God. There is no profane time for a Christian because time has been transformed by the Paschal mystery; the Incarnation, Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection, Ascension and Coming Return of Jesus Christ. The eternal entered into history and it, and we, are forever changed through His coming.”

remember as a child growing up, relatives from Germany would always annually send the family an Advent calendar. This was something to which we all looked forward to receiving. Not only did we as kids await the coming of Christmas for obvious reasons of getting gifts, but opening the package which our aunt sent us from Germany. This unique, rectangular cardboard arrangement added to the excitement of a looking forward process.

This calendar was designed with not only a picture on the front of a stand up display board of sorts, with 24 little doors, one of which is opened each day from the first day of December until Christmas Eve. The little “window” may show something to do with the nativity story and the birth of Jesus, or just something Christmas-related such as holly or bells. It still is a nice family event, especially for children, as it provides a countdown to and preparation for our Lord’s birth, which is what much of the Advent Season itself has become for today’s Christians.

Recently, I learned Advent calendars can be purchased for those of different ages not only for children, but for all adults as well – even those in their senior years up to age 82. So, I guess there is one for 66 year-olds such as “this old man”!

As far back as the early 1800’s, some German families honored the countdown by marking a door or wall daily with a chalk line, lighting 24 candles, one more each day. Some families would also hang 24 little religious pictures on a wall. I think my mother promoted the candle lighting tradition in our home, but I can’t be sure of that. After all, that was approximate 60 some years ago. Memory’s doing the best it can here!

So, how are we going to make our mark this season? Are we just going to follow rituals and do things because they are fun for us and maybe the family? Or should not we share our excitement, joy and love that Christ has given us as we prepare for the anniversary of His birth? We have so much for which to be grateful. Knowing of His love is one thing. But feeling it flow through us to others is a wonderful gift we can share this Christmas season. If we think of the pencil, there is a real point to which I am referring. If we go through the motions without expressing His love, we are virtually erasing everything God has given us freely for our benefit. Christ “led” us in the right direction. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit we are prompted to care and share for others. Just by giving of ourselves, maybe not in big ways, we are definitely making a mark.

So, next time you take hold of a pencil, think of what I said. May others see Christ in us. Those touched will feel blessed, and those doing the giving will reap the benefits.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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